The BBC Trust has set out a series of changes to the commercial arm of the BBC. It follows an 18-month review of the mandate, strategy and governance arrangements for BBC commercial activity. The regulatory body calls for a clearer focus in securing value from the BBC’s intellectual property and an exit from any activity not seen as in keeping with the BBC brand.
The Trust would “not expect to consider a commercial deal of the scale and nature of the Lonely Planet acquisition in future. The Trust will want to ensure that BBC Worldwide’s plans for it secure the best value for licence fee payers and will keep its long-term future under review.”
Stakes in non-BBC branded international channels should be divested “over time where it makes commercial sense”, suggesting that Worldwide’s participation in Animal Planet and People + Arts in some markets could be drawing to an end. However, the 50/50 UKTV venture with Virgin Media TV that includes GOLD, Dave and Watch would stay.
The Trust says that in developing a more internationally focused business, Worldwide should increase the focus on BBC-branded channels, placing BBC programmes within BBC branded outlets. While referring to channels such as BBC Entertainment and BBC Lifestyle, the branded outlets also include the internet-delivered channels found on portals such as YouTube.
According to the Trust, entertainment-based channels should bring the best of UK talent to international audiences, in doing so supporting the BBC’s pubic purposes while generating commercial returns.
At home the Trust said that it should be made clear to consumers of BBC services when they are moving from an area of ‘public space’, funded by the licence fee, to a commercial environment funded by commercial income.
The Trust launched a review of Worldwide’s activities in July 2008. Its work was driven by two concerns. The first was to ensure that BBC Worldwide’s strategy was properly aligned with the BBC’s public service interest and so had a positive impact on the BBC’s brand and reputation. The second was to ensure that in its strategy and operations BBC Worldwide was duly sensitive to the concerns of other commercial players in the market.